Earth Day is Every Day in Palau

Corals exposed during low tide are one of nature's playgrounds for local children. Photo by Monica Medina.

This week, I have traveled thousands of miles to the small Pacific island nation of Palau to help them celebrate Earth Day. I am here specifically for the world premiere of the National Geographic documentary film about the Pristine Seas expedition to Palau that took place last September. The film, entitled “Return to Paradise,” brings to life Palau’s pristine and resource rich marine environment and its unique traditions and culture. The film, like the country and its way of life, is gorgeous.

Corals exposed during low tide are one of nature’s playgrounds for local children. Photo by Monica Medina.

One of Palau’s most enduring traditions is a bul, which loosely means to give the natural resources of an area a “rest” from being harvested so that they can replenish themselves. Bul has recently become the rallying cry of Palauans favoring a bold proposal to create a marine sanctuary covering approximately eighty percent of the nation’s waters – nearly 500,000 square kilometers in size. Palauans see it as part of their sacred responsibility to pass on the riches of their natural environment to future generations, rather than squander them for a quick buck. Their symbol for the sanctuary movement is a graphic of a traditional wood carving, with fish and other marine life spelling out BUL.

The pristine waters of Palau. Photo by Monica Medina.
The pristine waters of Palau. Photo by Monica Medina.

At first, Palauans were concerned about limiting fishing and other development in such a large portion of their waters. But with the support of the country’s leaders — President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., all the local chiefs, and 13 of the 16 state governors within Palau — the sanctuary movement is growing. Nearly half of Palau’s adult —> Read More

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